The Republican Party has declared war on voting by college students. One of the latest to enlist is former Wisconsin
Governor Scott Walker, who declared that the overwhelming victory by Janet Protasiewicz in the recent Wisconsin Supreme Court election was due to the brainwashing of young college students by "campus radicals." UW students did indeed vote overwhelmingly for "Judge Janet," particularly at the Madison, Milwaukee, and Green Bay campuses. Walker is now determined to "undo years of liberal indoctrination." To achieve this he has announced a new donor-financed initiative: "I am leading a new effort at Young America Foundation to counter the impact of radicals on campus..."
This allegation of youthful gullibility should be more closely examined. A few policy issues of acute interest to young people generally (not just those in college) point to more likely reasons why young voters are repelled by Republican policy positions.
It can hardly be chalked up to indoctrination that today's college students -- the generation that practiced "active shooter drills" in school, some having survived the real thing -- have concluded that the Republicans are doing nothing about guns. Like most Americans, they are frustrated by the inaction, especially since Justice Scalia's 2008 interpretation of the Second Amendment reaffirmed that gun ownership is a regulated right: red-flag laws, waiting periods before purchase, background checks, restrictions on ownership of certain types of weapons, are indeed constitutional. Republicans have had plenty of opportunity to diverge from the NRA position to endorse at minimum red-flag laws and background checks.
Nor does it require indoctrination to conclude that the Republicans are caving in to religious organizations on abortion restrictions. In furtherance of this unpopular policy, unrepresentative gerrymandered state legislatures impose strict regulations on abortion and other reproductive medical decisions, endanger women in medical emergencies, restrict interstate travel for less-restricted care, and attempt to ban a proven drug for treatment of miscarriages that also can induce abortions.
It does not require indoctrination for students to understand the Republican strategy to suppress their vote. Republican strategist Cleta Mitchell was caught on tape speaking at a Republican strategy session outlining a comprehensive plan to suppress voting by those unlikely to vote for Republican candidates. The plan includes limiting voting days and hours, eliminating on-campus voting places, denying the use of student ID as proof of voter eligibility, and keeping off the ballot any referendum whose likely outcome would be to demonstrate the unpopularity of Republican policy positions.
As if to justify suppressing the college vote, Mitchell described college students as lazy, coddled by the convenience of on-campus voting: "They basically put the polling place next to the student dorm so they just have to roll out of bed, vote, and go back to bed.” The alternative would be to register and vote near the family home, dozens if not hundreds of miles away. Of course, hers is a mischaracterization of modern students who work very hard just to qualify for admission to college and then proceed to take challenging coursework that encapsulates thousands of years of learning. Most students are also compelled to earn money during their college days to pay today's greater student share of the cost. Besides, the 26th Amendment to the Constitution (1971) that enabled 18-year-olds to vote did not specify greater inconvenience to exercise that right.
Certainly, increased time and travel costs will suppress the vote. Together with gerrymandering, high time costs are part of the overall strategy to solidify minority rule. By contrast, representative government requires allocating voting resources -- polling places, days and hours, voting machines, secure drop boxes, mail-ballot procedures, and, yes, on-campus voting -- so that all eligible demographics, including college students, experience roughly the same time and resource cost of voting.